Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Promise on a Sunday for a Better Week

        How many times am I going to do this? I got caught in the end of the semester funk and prettymuch forgot about running. 15 miles last week, 13 this week. Impressive, innit? I wish I could diagram these awful funks that overtake me from time to time, because I think they are one of my biggest barriers to improvement. Then again, failing to show up for a clinical is worse, so I guess I can't be faulted for choosing one over the other if that's all my unfocused mind can handle at the moment. Triage might not be the right word, but it works.
        I realized today that I have an opportunity for something really special every day. I can, if I so choose, get up and race the sun to a beautiful spot, watch it rise for a moment, and head back down to start my day. How much more perfect of a start could a day have? To not do that at least a couple days per week is just...well, it's shameful. I've been fantasizing about running up a peak as the sun goes down, watching it sink down behind the horizon, flipping my headlamp on, and heading down to earth in the dark. It doesn't have to be a grand adventure reserved for epic magazine articles or books. It can be my every day. In Michigan, it could have been my every day. Beauty is all around us, and we get caught up in something else. I can't even explain or describe what that thing is, but days disappear. Some sort of misconception that extraordinary things can't just happen on a Wednesday afternoon. I, for some reason, have built a trap for my own mind. I've decided to work less so I can enjoy my time here. A good job will come with time. What do I do with this glorious abundance of time? Sometimes I can't even say. I can do better.
        My goal for this week is to prioritize tenacity. It's the small things that catch me and don't let go. My computer, my phone, or my lack of planning. A fulfilling life doesn't happen by accident (I suppose it could, but I'm almost done babbling. Stay with me). A voice in my head is telling me that I've been "just settling in" long enough. I've been in transition in one way or another for years now. I probably sound repetitive, and I hope this struggle with transient mindlessness can end in my favor someday, but for now I'll be thankful that I wake up as often as I do. Improvement from my current self is all I can hope for. Dress for the weather. Stay moving. Quit bitching. Live life with some vigor.
        How long did the motivation last? Here's the weekly log, starting with 11/24.
7 miles, 1.5hours +/- ~ 2500' : A short day of clinicals, prepping for assessments, and some reading nearly got the better of me. I drove almost the entire way to the Elden lookout trailhead on fumes, then realized I forgot my wallet. Back home, took Cohen out, and grabbed my wallet. Deciding not to mess with the traffic on Route 66, I went to the less steep route of Oldham Trail to the Elden Summit. I wanted to make it in time to watch the Sun sink down and run by headlamp on the way down. I barely made it, but had a great deal of fun shuffling alone up the trail. Though it's barely 3 miles to the Summit, I ran every step, including the loose/technical/steep sections. Maybe a little improvement is taking place afterall. A quiet, peaceful end to a pleasant day.

7 miles, 1 hour track workout: Typically my longest day of class, I was on campus from 8-3:30. Still not even a full workday for most. I nearly bailed on the workout, but decided to head down for the sake of consistency. It's the only thing I've consistently done recently, and I feel great when I get done. 3 miles to the track, then 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 minutes of "interval pace" (about 5:45-5:50/mile) with half rest in between. A small turnout for the workout, and the group doesn't "regroup" during fartlek runs, so I ran mostly alone. Having the coaches calling out splits every 200m and focusing on the person ahead of me helps keep me moving, so it's still a great way to give some variety in my usual trail shuffles. A foreign feeling is to not be completely depleted after a track session, though. I'm either doing it right, or doing it wrong. Maybe a road 5 or 10k is in order for the sake of assessment.
0 miles. .5 hours of cycling - I awoke in the morning and felt fine, only to immediately fall back asleep until it was time to get up for work. I'll have today be my rest day. Such a shame, however, because it was beautiful outside.
2 miles - Yep. two miles. Turkey Trot at Buffalo Park with a few strangers and some acquaintances. Though it was fun to mingle and get a quick tempo session in, my heart was elsewhere. In years past, my family attended a YMCA Function in Muskegon to raise canned goods for shelters nearby. As one may know from reading this blog in the past, we lost my cousin Mike on the eve of Thanksgiving 8 years ago, and my family started doing the Turkey Trot firstly to forget about being awake at dawn to hear of his death, and secondly to honor his memory. To not be there was painful, more so than I anticipated. Being one of the only family members to leave home has its difficulties. At least my niece was there to carry on a tradition, as evidenced by a photo message from my sister.
A heart-breakingly adorable reminder of what I'm missing at home.  
The run in Flagstaff was a "prediction run," meaning it was more about strategy than all-out competition, two things I equally suck at. I predicted 13 minutes for a gravel 2 miler with one decent hill, and shuffled in at 12:25. I attempted to set a figurative cruise control, but maybe hitting the track once a week has lowered that pace a little. Better to be pleasantly surprised, of course.
12 miles ~ 3hrs. +/- 3600'. A leisurely outing in unseasonably (I'm assuming) warm weather. Up Oldham to the Elden summit, down the Lookout trail to Fat Man's Loop, up the Heart Trail and back down via Oldham. I had been thinking of this route for quite a while, and had to take advantage of lots of daylight. I felt pretty light and easy-going for most of the run after my blood sugar evened out, consuming less than a liter of water and no gels. I loaded up on fries beforehand.
On the way to the actual Summit

My phone has a self-timer. How wonderful
After heading down the Lookout trail, I got a little turned around in the Sun. I wandered off the trail at the bottom of the basin and had to do a little scrambling to get back up to where I kind of sort of figured the trail was. 
        I realized that this is one of the longer sustained runs I've done in a while, and it felt pretty good. I'd like to get to to a point in which I can make a 20-30minute climb with no rest or walking, even if it's slow. The technical stuff it what slows me down to a crawl. Oh well. The time has to be put in if I expect to improve. 10,000 hours and all that Malcom Gladwell bidness. This loop is filled with some diverse beauty with its Aspens on one side, Ponderosa Pine on the other, and views of the city to the south with technicality and tough climbs all around. I couldn't really ask for more. 
An 8 hour shift right in the middle of the day tends to throw me a little off when I try to get a decent run in. Getting up early leaves little time for leisurely coffee drinking, and night runs are cold and lonely (and I'm going to get attacked by a monster I just know it), so my bicycle commute of 20 minutes with a 120' climb has to suffice sometimes. 
9 miles, 7 hours, +/- 3400'. A great hike with Kelsey, Sarah (whom I borrowed the photos from unless mentioned) and Eric on Humphreys Peak. Started at the trailhead and steadily made our way up. The wind was about as wild as I'd care to deal with above treeline, pushing 60mph or so in strong gusts. On my own, I may have quickly and stubbornly crawled the last 40-50' to the actual summit, but with a couple of newer hikers in the group, it was kind of stupid and unnecessary to keep going. I have foolish pride from time to time, but didn't see the need to suffer when it ceased to be fun. The best views can be seen without the actual summit anyway. The chance to do a genuine hike and not a walk in running gear was great. The slower, deliberate pace allowed for enjoyment of the scenery and an opportunity to take note of more detail of our surroundings. Though not a run, I still fell asleep early and felt that post-long run fatigue that 7 hours in the elements will produce. A great day and unique experience.

Photo: Kelsey

Photo: Kelsey again

Totals: ~37 miles and 16 hours on my feet, and a couple hours on the bike. 3 outings in real trails, a track workout, and a timed 2 mile. I'll call it a success in spite of a relatively low number. Thus concludes a week of outdoor stuff. Next week will likely yield less since finals week and work are crammed into 4 days to accommodate for travel to San Francisco to support Kelsey at the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 mile. Less running, but still exciting.